Every week after the Big Ten slate of games, I will bring you some B1G thoughts on everything that happened! This will include analysis, stats, key players, moments, and maybe a joke. With the Big Ten expanding from 14 teams to 18 teams in 2024, will also include the newest members — Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Washington.
Welcome to the 2023 football season! After a long offseason college football is back, and we’re in for a roller coaster. 2023 is the last season of relative normalcy, as the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, potentially the ACC, and the College Football Playoff all expand in 2024. There will be new television partnerships, new rivalries, the death of old rivalries, and the demise of the PAC-12.
Buckle up! 2023 is going to be a wild ride. With the start of the season here, I have 10 predictions for the new campaign...
Michigan will lose two games and finish third in the Big Ten East
Depending on who you ask, Michigan is the clear favorite to win the Big Ten and make the CFP for the third season in a row. Many national pundits have them essentially walking through the conference, as they are believed to have their most talented team of the Jim Harbaugh era. I do not believe this is their most talented team.
Most of that hinges on JJ McCarthy taking a large leap into being a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft. Despite this, Michigan will still be excellent, but Ohio State is on a mission after two losses in a row, and Penn State has one of its most talented teams in a long time. I can’t say I feel good about this prediction, as the Big Ten East is going to be a bloodbath and it may be more likely that Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State all beat each other and end the season 11-1 in a three-way tie.
Despite that likelihood, I’m on the record that I think Michigan loses to Penn State and Ohio State this year.
[Insert Ohio State Quarterback] will win the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Award
This may be less a prediction and more an acknowledgment of history. Every season Ohio State has to break in a new quarterback, the media jumps on the opportunity to say that this will be the season the Buckeyes have a bad quarterback and will lose multiple games for the first time since 2011.
Since 2003, Ohio State has only lost more than two games twice, and an Ohio State quarterback has won the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Award every year since 2018. It’s fun to imagine Ohio State with a bad quarterback, but Kyle McCord and Devin Brown were both former blue-chip recruits, and Ryan Day is the best quarterback developer in the country. The offseason is a time to dream, but the reality that Ohio State still has the best quarterback in the conference will soon be realized by all the doubters.
TreVeyon Henderson will win the Big Ten Running Back of the Year Award
The Big Ten is FULL of amazing running backs. I’m not sure there is a better running back room in the country than what you’ll see in this conference. It’s expected that Blake Corum will run away with this award — pun intended — but I think that a healthy TreVeyon Henderson will compete in the end.
I think two things will be true: Ohio State will have the best quarterback in the conference, and they will also be more reliant on the running game than in previous years. This is a long shot because Ohio State will never run the ball as much as Michigan, but the Wolverines will need to work Donovan Edwards in more than they have previously. If Tre can return to his 2021 form, I think there is a real chance he will win this award as the first Ohio State running back to earn the accolade since Ezekiel Elliott in 2015.
Maryland will win nine games including their bowl game
Mike Locksley is doing everything in his power to change the narrative around him and his program. After being bottom-feeders in the B1G East for the first few seasons of his tenure, Maryland has gotten better each of the past two seasons, culminating in this year.
Maryland is firmly the fourth-best team in the East and would benefit from not having to play Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan this season, but they’re a year early for that. I expect Maryland to win every non-OSU, PSU, and Michigan game this season. If they stumble and end the year with eight wins, they’ll likely win their bowl game. A 10-win season including the bowl is not out of the question for the Maryland Terrapins.
Don’t be surprised when they’re one of the better teams in the country and end the season ranked in the Top 25.
Indiana head coach Tom Allen will get fired
Indiana enters 2023 with no positive momentum and under the weight of a horrible contract, they gave head coach Tom Allen after the 2020 football season.
Since going 6-2 in 2020, the Hoosiers are a combined 6-18 in the past two seasons. The way Allen’s contract is structured, if he is fired before Dec. 1, 2024, Indiana will owe him the remaining balance of his contract, which after the 2023 season would be around $20 million. $20 million would be one of the highest buyouts ever paid, but with the new influx of money from their TV contract and the 12-team playoff, Indiana has the money to not be stagnant and fall further behind their conference mates.
Indiana may never be at the top of the conference, but with Oregon, Washington, UCLA, and USC joining, it’s imperative they try or they will be stuck at the bottom for the foreseeable future. If Indiana doesn’t make a bowl game, and it is unlikely they will, Tom Allen will be fired by the end of this season.
Brian Ferentz will not score 325 points and will get fired; Kirk Ferentz will retire
Oddly, there is some optimism around Iowa’s offense this year, and much of it revolves around their transfer pickup of QB Cade McNamara from Michigan. My problem with this is McNamara was barely an average quarterback for the Wolverines when they had the best offensive line and the best running back duo in the country.
Iowa does have talent in their tight end room, but their offensive line is a question, and running back Kaleb Johnson doesn’t compare to Blake Corum, Hassan Haskins, or Donovan Edwards. Brian Ferentz is objectively not a good offensive coordinator, and Iowa, despite being more talented, is not going to suddenly have a competent offense. Also, their defense should take a small step back, and while defensive touchdowns count toward the 325 total, I don’t expect the defense to score as many touchdowns as they did last season.
Iowa will always win eight or nine games, but this offense won’t be good enough to continue employing Brian Ferentz.
Marvin Harrison Jr. will win the Heisman trophy
Marvin Harrison Jr. is the best player in the country, and the Heisman Trust refuses to award another two-time Heisman. Despite the wealth of running back talent in the country, the trust has refused to crown a running back the Heisman winner, but they will occasionally take a break from quarterback to give it to a wide receiver. Marv’s biggest competition is probably Caleb Williams, Michael Penix Jr., and Drake Maye.
All three quarterbacks may have one too many losses to win the award. If Harrison Jr. has a special season and leads Ohio State past Michigan for the first time in his career, he could take home this year’s Heisman Trophy.
Washington will win the Pac-12 in its final year of existence
Washington is a Big Ten team effective 2024, but for this column and all of my work, they’re already a member. The four teams vying for the Pac-12 championship will all be in the Big Ten in 2024, and I believe Washington will end the year on top.
They have arguably the second-best quarterback in the conference and the second-best wide receiver group in the country. USC will be a formidable challenge, but they still have an anemic defense and Washington should be able to take advantage of that. Washington’s biggest challenger might be Utah, but I expect to see the Utes and Huskies in the final Pac-12 Championship Game.
Illinois will win the B1G West
The West is going to be interesting this year. Iowa is Iowa and may have a better offense than years previous. Wisconsin has a new coach Luke Fickell and should contend for the division immediately. The team everyone seems to forget about is Illinois, who was the best team in the division in 2022 but stumbled in a few games while learning how to win.
Bret Bielema is a great coach, and Illinois returns one of the best defensive lines in the conference; plus Aaron Henry was retained, so their secondary should be strong despite losing Devin Witherspoon. In a wide-open West, Illinois should be a contender, and in my mind, they’re the favorites.
Ohio State will return to the top and win the conference
Ohio State has heard the noise and has seen the doubters. I believe they’ll shut everyone up and take their place back at the top of the conference.
In year two under Jim Knowles, they should have a much-improved defense that should fix some of their issues from 2022. They have the deepest defensive line in the conference, an All-American linebacker, and should finally be healthy in the secondary after dealing with injuries all last season. They have questions at quarterback and offensive line, but they have the best wide receivers in the country, and as long as they receive above-average play on the offensive line, Ryan Day will have the quarterback ready to play.
It won’t be easy for the Buckeyes, as they have to play Notre Dame, Penn State, and Michigan in 2023, but I believe this is the year Ryan Day slays his demons and takes Ohio State back to the mountaintop.
Connect with me on Twitter: @JordanW330
Follow The I-80 Football Show on YouTube: @JordanW330
Follow I-80 Football Show on Instagram: @I80FootballShow
Follow the Power Two Podcast on Instagram: @PowerTwoPodcast